State Leadership Conference

U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, PhD, (R-Pa.) urged state psychology leaders at the State Leadership Conference's closing banquet on March 7 to continue their bipartisan advocacy for passage of the mental health parity legislation.

The proposed legislation--an expansion of the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996, which expires Dec. 31--would require insurers to offer mental health coverage benefits at the same level as medical and surgical benefits, including dollar limits, co-payments, co-insurance, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums.

Murphy, a psychologist, encouraged his colleagues to "speak up with a united voice" on parity as he accepted the Outstanding Leadership Award.

"Make sure you know the facts and speak the language of the people you're speaking to," Murphy said, underscoring the importance of clearly explaining the social and economic benefits of parity to members of Congress.

Murphy accepted the award along with another psychologist-lawmaker, U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, PhD, (D-Ohio). Both are members of what Russ Newman, PhD, JD, APA's executive director for professional practice, called psychology's "congressional triple punch."

The third member, psychologist Rep. Brian Baird, PhD, (D-Wash.), was unable to accept his Practice Directorate Leadership Award due to the birth of his twin boys the day before. APA Board Member Ruth Paige, PhD, read a letter from Baird in which he praised conference attendees for their activism and emphasized the need for his colleagues to connect with their members of Congress.

Strickland, who in 1992 became the first psychologist elected to Congress, underscored the need for psychologists to showcase their research both in politics and their communities.

"We advocate research as a profession," Strickland said. "And we need to advocate public policy as a profession because public policy can help create a society that is just."

Strickland called on the state leaders to advocate for volatile issues, such as APA's support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which bars employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, and to re-examine their role in health-care's future.

"Discrimination is not vague," said Strickland, after he received the award. "Intolerance is not vague. Our profession must speak out about and against intolerance and discrimination....These are serious issues, and our research tells us a lot about them."

The banquet began with APA CEO Norman Anderson, PhD, leading the attendees in a chant of "parity, parity, parity."

"It will only be when there is no more insurance discrimination against mental health that our nation's citizens can fully access care that will be best for their overall health," said Anderson. "Achieving mental health parity remains a major piece of unfinished business for our nation."

--Z. STAMBOR